Ross University Blog

DEAN'S VIEWPOINT: Vaccines and the Doctor's Role in Educating Patients

February 01, 2015

Updated 2/2015: The vaccination debate continues to make headlines in world news, with some United States politicians even weighing in on the issue. Curious about where Ross University School of Medicine's (RUSM) dean stands on this topic? Check out the blog post below to find out. 

RUSM Dean Joseph A. FlahertyBy Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
Dean and Chancellor, Ross University School of Medicine

We are in real danger in this country of having a generation of children and young adults who are not benefiting from vaccines that have been developed over the last 100 years. Lethal diseases such as diphtheria, pertussis and chickenpox could make a comeback in today’s climate of peculiar health ideas, Hollywood celebrities acting as if they are medical experts, and a proliferation of misinformation on the Internet. 

While I was in medical school, in 1969, there was a large outbreak of diphtheria in Chicago, and I and many other medical students spent long hours on the west side of the city, vaccinating children. I don’t think that any of us could have imagined that in the year 2014, we would be seeing the resurgence of diseases that had been declared eradicated and eliminated.

Measles is one example. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not only has measles made a comeback in the U.S., but large outbreaks have occurred in the past few years. Between January 1 and May 23, 2014, a total of 288 confirmed cases were reported to the CDC.* This exceeds the highest reported yearly total of measles cases since elimination. The CDC found that in the three largest outbreaks of 2014, transmission occurred after measles was introduced into communities “with pockets of persons who were unvaccinated because of philosophical or religious beliefs.” The CDC emphasized the need for healthcare providers to heighten awareness of the need for vaccination to prevent measles. 

The biggest setbacks to vaccination in the past 30 years have been the understandable concerns of parents of children on the autism spectrum. Scientists have thoroughly explored this and have found, beyond any doubt, that vaccines and their ingredients are not linked in any way to autism.

The role of the physician is increasingly one of providing community awareness and education. He or she has to understand the anxieties that parents may have, and that the facts may not always be convincing. Physicians have to get the message out that vaccines are essential for prevention and care. It is imperative for physicians to form partnerships with patients and to work with people who hold different beliefs, in order to assure that all children are vaccinated against deadly diseases.



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